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Alzheimer’s funding a first for Wairarapa

Alzheimer’s New Zealand is calling out for an urgent funding increase, with one branch manager describing the current situation as “clinging to lifeboats”.

Alzheimer’s Wairarapa has historically never had government funding, as a contract was never approved by the region’s now defunct District Health Board.

However, Andrea Rutene – Te Whatu Ora’s acting general manager for planning and performance in Wairarapa – said the recently established organisation is working to change this.

“We are currently working with Alzheimer’s Wairarapa to look at services that align with the Dementia Action Plan,” she said.

This funding negotiation is a first for the region, and Alzheimer’s Wairarapa committee chair Jude Clark said her organisation is grateful for the support.

“I’m very excited. This is really big news for Alzheimer’s Wairarapa.”

Clark said the board is currently ironing out details with Te Whatu Ora, and that she is feeling positive about the momentum.

“To get a contract from scratch is very time-consuming,” said Clark.

“Once you have a contract and you perform and meet the needs, it can sometimes roll over to the next year.”

Clark wants to see future investment in education and support for Alzheimer’s carers.

“The amount of money the country saves with carers being family members is in the billions,” said Clark.

“Family members who are carers don’t always get paid for doing that job. They deserve recognition.”

Until now, Alzheimer’s Wairarapa has relied solely on a combination of grant donations and external fundraising.

This money has gone towards paying its local community support officer and nurse, Tam Williams, and another part-time employee for administration.

Williams said they rely largely on volunteer work and additional unpaid hours worked by herself and the other employee.

“If you talk to anyone who works for a charity, we all work hours we’re not paid for,” said Williams.

“Otherwise, in the three and a half days I’m at work, I am so overwhelmed.”

With an increasingly ageing population both nationally and in Wairarapa, investment in Alzheimer’s New Zealand is essential, Williams said.

“We’ve known for decades that we were going to be in this sort of predicament.

“We have the baby boomers coming through, and along with the baby boomers come all their age-related illnesses.”

Unpaid labour and care that falls on family and friends can be “completely taxing’” said Williams, while noting that Alzheimer’s Wairarapa does everything possible to ensure people can stay in their own houses.

“Nobody ever comes to the conclusion, ‘One day, I’ll be in a rest home’,” Williams said.

“All of us would fight tooth and nail to stay out of those places.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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